November 27, 2008

A Thankful Heart (God's Recipe) - Nov 27, 2008

Grace and peace be to you, from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

What’s your favorite way to cook the turkey? Do you deep-fat fry it outside in a big kettle of oil? Do you bake it in the oven, traditional style? Do you have a special turkey rub that you put on the bird to make it taste just right? There’s more than one way to cook the Thanksgiving turkey, or “tofurkey” if tofu is more your style. But, not every recipe is created equal. Depending on the “ooohs” and the “aaahs” of your guests, a recipe gets promoted or forgotten.

Well, today we’re not going to talk about how to make the mashed potatoes the fluffiest or the gravy the smoothest. For our mediation in God’s Word we’re going to look at a recipe for a thankful heart.

Now, there are a lot of different recipes floating around out there for a thankful heart. One recipe directs us to look at those less blessed than we are, that should make us thankful. Another recipe would have us do without for a little bit, then we’ll appreciate what we have.

Beneficial as these recipes may be, there is a better recipe for a thankful heart. It comes from the pages of the Bible, from the kitchen of the Almighty Himself. Let’s take a look at that recipe.

The first ingredient is “3 Handfuls Water”.

Ephesians 5:25b-26 (NIV) Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

God’s recipe for a thankful heart begins with faith. A person can’t be thankful to the true God unless he knows who that God is. That’s where the three handfuls of water come in. They are the three handfuls of water used in Baptism.

Now, when a Baptism is done according to Jesus’ recipe, that is, when water is applied in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, only a single drop of water is really required. But, most Baptizers find that three handfuls works real nice. One for each of the persons of the One True God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Now, you can use any water, just make sure you use the Jesus’s words with that water. Then the Holy Spirit can flow in and begins faith in a child’s heart, or seal the faith of an adult. As God’s Word says in Galatians:

“26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27 NIV).

The power of Baptism is that it connects sinful people to Jesus by the steel chain of faith. And through this connection, sinners are forgiven all their sins.

“5 tbs. Grace and Mercy”.

Ephesians 2:4 (NIV) 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

These two ingredients come from the same family of spices, but they are a little bit different.

The original Greek word for “mercy” is talking about a love that reaches out to help someone because it sees how pitiful their condition is. Mercy sees a person’s inability to help themselves and takes action. God is rich in mercy.

The original Greek word for “grace” is talking about a love that reaches out to help someone even though they don’t deserve it. When a person helps someone else when they are not obligated to do so, and when they even have good reason not too, there you have grace.

From God these two ingredients come packaged together in a cross shaped box. It’s because of Jesus’ suffering and death in our place that we receive God’s grace and mercy.

This double ingredient is an essential ingredient for a thankful heart. For every other undeserved gift that we receive is only good for the length of our human life. But the gift of grace and mercy that comes from Jesus’ Cross gives us a place in heaven for all eternity. That means that the thankful heart made using God’s grace and mercy – lasts forever.

“2 Sifters of Remembering”.

Psalm 103:2 (NIV)
2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—

Ever cooked a cheese soufflé? At the Schaller house they come in two varieties: fluffy and light or dense and heavy. You have to remember to walk softly around the oven while cheese soufflé is baking. If you tromp around, you’ll only get the dense variety. I guess you could say that “remembering” is a vital ingredient in fluffy cheese soufflé.

Remembering is also a vital ingredient in God’s recipe for a thankful heart. In fact, without remembering, a thankful heart is impossible to make.

When we sift back through the years and remember all that God has given us, our thankfulness grows. Try doing this today. If you don’t like making lists, sift through an old photo album, or the photos on your hard-drive. Unpack one of those old boxes of things you’re saving just because you can’t bear to throw them away. There’ll be something to make you thankful.

Or try sifting through King David’s list of things to be thankful for. He wrote it out in Psalm 103.

“1 Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:2-5 NIV).

“2 ½ Cups Contentment, Stir in Thoroughly”

Philippians 4:11b-13 (NIV) I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

One of the great curses of the human heart is that it persists in telling us that happiness is one possession away. Or one vacation. Or one retirement. And while it is true that possessions and vacations and retirements hold a certain measure of happiness, that happiness fades over time. Better to be content with what God gives to you, than to hang your happiness on what might never be yours.

Paul’s relationship with Jesus Christ gave him the ability to be content no matter what the circumstances. Whether well fed or hungry, whether living with stuff to spare or with nothing to sit on, Paul had Jesus. And because he did, Paul had exactly what he needed. His soul was secure and ready for transport to heaven whenever God decided to let the axe fall. All because Jesus was his friend and Savior. Happiness isn’t one possession away, it’s one PERSON away.

Living with Jesus means learning contentment. And with contentment in the recipe, the heart can’t help but turn out thankful.

“Dash of Trial, Pinch of Testing”

James 1:2-4 (NIV) 2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

When I cook I like to use all the ingredients listed even if they don’t sound like they’d be good in the recipe.

I’ve discovered that when I take out the things I’m not familiar with or that I think I won’t like, a recipe becomes one-dimensional or less flavorful than it would have been. All the added ingredients that the original cook put in there really do serve a purpose, even if I can’t identify them all in the finished product.

In His recipe for a thankful heart God throws in some trials and tests. We humans tend to think that the recipe would turn out just fine without these additions, maybe even more thankful without these things. But, the Master Chef really does know what He’s doing. The trials and tests He throws in are just enough. They don’t ruin the thankful heart, rather, they give it depth and dimension.

We might not always understand the LORD’s recipe, but lets try to stick to His plan, even when we think that we know better. Let’s remember what James says, to consider it joy when God sprinkles trial and test into the mixing bowl of our lives. When He does, His intention is to make us complete.

“Season with Joy, Sprinkle with Laughter”

Psalm 126:2-3 (NIV)
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.

I was looking through pumpkin pie recipes when I stumbled across one with a lattice top. I quickly eliminated that pie from the pool of possible choices. How silly, a lattice top goes on a cherry pie, or an apple pie, not a pumpkin pie.

We recognize many foods because of their distinctive outward appearances. We recognize a thankful heart in the same way. Outward joy and laughter mark the person in which a thankful heart dwells. In Proverbs it says,

“A happy heart makes the face cheerful,” (Proverbs 15:13 NIV).

Some foods are just naturally good looking, others need a little help. In the same way some people are blessed with bubbly, cheerful spirits while others have to work at it.

The best place to obtain genuine joy and laughter for garnishing the heart, is at the foot of Jesus’ empty cross. That may sound like a strange place to go for joy and laughter, but not when you understand that the big empty cross is really one big receipt. On that receipt is printed the total debt of the world’s sin, your and mine, and because of Jesus that receipt has been marked “paid”. Joy and laughter? You bet, for a place of death is now the place of life – for all.

“Pour into heart. Bake. Repeat.”

Hebrews 10:25 (NIV) 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The Ten Commandments are a summary of the will of God which was given to the Old Testament people of Israel. The third commandment was specifically written for the people of Israel: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy”.

The Israelites were to take Saturday off, but the Sabbath was more than just a day off from work. The Sabbath was also the worship day.

The Bible says that we are no longer required to take Saturday off and worship on that day, but God still wants us to keep the Sabbath. We keep it today whenever we honor and respect the Word of God by gladly hearing it and learning it.

Part of keeping the Sabbath is joining with our fellow Christians regularly so that we might encourage each other in Christ. When we come together we can help each other remember all the ingredients in the recipe. We can mix up the ingredients of a thankful heart – together.

Sometimes my daughters need help pouring a new jug of milk. When they think they don’t need anybody else, that’s when they make the biggest mess. You and me are the same. We need the support of our fellow Christians and they need ours. That’s why God put us here together.

“Pray Unceasingly! Sing lots!”

1 Peter 5:7 (NIV) 7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Another passage in the Bible directs Christians to pray unceasingly. This one from Peter’s first letter tells us why. Christians want to learn how to pray unceasingly because prayer is how we take our worries off of our own backs and place them on Jesus’ strong and willing shoulders.

On our backs our worries do little more than weigh us down and hinder our thankfulness. When we place them on Jesus, along with the rest of our sins, then we are free to move about with grace and agility.

A thankful heart can’t rise to it’s intended height when the lid is on the pot of prayer. But with open and continual prayer the thankful heart takes on it’s proper shape and height.

And it sings too. Yeah. Some food sizzles, some pops, but the thankful heart sings as it grows.

The book of Psalms is actually a book of heartfelt prayers that were written, most of them, to be sung. That’s what “Psalm” means, “song”.

It’s so fitting isn’t it. For what do we do when we are really joyful? Don’t we sing? Or whistle? Or at least hum a little tune as we go about? Even those who are not musically inclined seem to flow along as if on the notes of a song when on the wave of great happiness.

So pray unceasingly, and sing lots as your thankful heart rises in the heat of Christ’s love and forgiveness. Like the Psalm says,

Psalm 146:1-2 (NIV)
1 Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.
2 I will praise the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

If you find that you aren’t praying as much as you think you should, or want too. If you find that your heart isn’t singing. Then come back again to Jesus. Increase your reading and hearing of His Word of life. Increase your time with the Christians of your fellowship. We need the warmth of Christ to make our thankful hearts rise and sing.

There are a lot of recipes out there to make a thankful heart. But the LORD’s recipe is tried and true. It’s a crowd pleaser when we stick to it. And that’s the real truth. All cute recipe comparisons aside. A thankful heart is pleasing to God, for it is to him that we offer the song of a thankful heart. And a thankful heart is pleasing to the people around us too, for what lifts the spirit more than a light and joyful person?

You know, there are a lot of people in our world who don’t know Christ and the forgiveness He gives. We can’t make ‘em believe. But we can make ‘em thankful. Thankful for us in their lives.

Confident in our own forgiveness, we can forgive. Knowing God loves us, we can extend our love to others. Having experienced hard times, we can reach out and support people going through the same. Yes, we can be confident, forgiving, loving, praying, singing followers of Christ.

Yeah, God’s recipe for a thankful heart serves God and our neighbors. And for some of them, it just might be the appetizer that prepares them for the bread of life that is Jesus Christ.


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